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Hello October: New Seasons + New Opportunities = New Blessings

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October

It has been three and a half months since I moved and two full months since I’ve been on campus. Time is flying! There are so many wonderful and challenging aspects of my transition; here is a short recap.

The best news is today I sit and am grateful for what this new season of my life brings. I can’t say enough how different things are – the pace of the city, demographics, and options for recreational activities – but my time here has brought with it a unique set of adventures. For the first time in my life, my circle extends well beyond my age group. I’ve found great joy in welcoming people into my space who are decades or even generations away from me, but a delight nonetheless. I’ve spent more time close to natural bodies of water. The beaches and riverfront are beautiful here! I’ve done well by making it to one or both at least once a week and found these experiences calming and refreshing. Although I am still struggling with some of my new normal, I veg out a lot more now. After the hustle and bustle of work and school for the last five years it is nice to come home and do … nothing! I’ve enjoyed this down time and reminded myself this week that it is completely okay to allow myself to rest and recharge as much as needed. It has been so long since I have been able to do this that it feels strange. I enjoy my own company in a new way. I think this revelation may be challenging for some people in my life, but I am learning to embrace the occasional solitude of my evenings and weekends. I indulge in quiet mornings when I can look out the window and enjoy some calm before the work day begins. I welcome evenings when I am cell phone free and able to simply relax without the constant movement of conversation. Even as I sometimes wrestle with the quietness, I am slowly moving to a space where I am enough. While I have always been a hard worker, I am learning to create a balance where I give what I have and then retreat. The extent of what I have to give is generous so I am also embracing my capacity to authentically be me without feeling the need to diminish or undermine my gifts while acknowledging how much I can realistically do within a day, a week, or even a month. For this revelation, I am grateful.

And then there are those areas where I am not doing as well :-(. Since work began, I struggle to maintain a realistic exercise routine. My eating habits have become shaky with one snack too many and much more eating out. I snooze a little more than I should in the morning :-). I am working on these things; slowly, but surely I hope to transition to a space where my work-life balance is more consistent with ongoing self-care. In the meantime, I remain thankful that I am here. I am happy. My heart sings. I am full of joy <3.

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How My Friends Taught Me to Be Flaky as F*(! … and I LOVE It!

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flaky

I opened my first email account when I was a freshman in college and didn’t start texting until nearly a decade later. I grew up in a rural town so no one used RSVPs – you just stopped by, showed up, or gave your word. I share these things because I learned much of my etiquette around corresponding via email or text messages and the value of RSVPs: 1) much later in my life; and 2) mostly in the professional arena. This timing shaped how I view email, including the form in which I send emails. It shaped what, how and with whom I send text messages. And it absolutely shaped the value I placed on giving my word, verbally or via an RSVP. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the same value I placed on these things was not shared by others. I’ve received numerous emails with no greeting or salutation at all – simply a question or statement. I’ve had colleagues who I have a strictly professional relationship with text me late at night or on the weekends. And I’ve more than my share of experience with folks saying they will attend an event and showing up significantly later than the start time or not showing up at all. Naturally, this used to upset me and sometimes it still does, especially when someone’s RSVP requires me spending money to reserve a spot for them. But this last year has taught me get comfortable with being flaky as f*(!.

My new lease on life is in no way an excuse for me to disregard others’ time or my commitment to complete a task. Instead, it has forced me to separate business commitments from personal commitments. No, I can’t wake up and just randomly decide to take a week off from work. But I can decide that a social event I previously committed to attending no longer fits my schedule and respectfully inform the host of the change. On a very minute, but important level this change also allows me to ignore the need to reply to every personal email, text message, or phone call I receive – which is not a practice I exercise as freely in the professional arena. I have friends who reply to text messages weeks later or not at all; family and friends who never check email, much more take a moment to respond to them. The ironic thing is many of these very same people will obsessively text and/or call me if I do not respond to a message from them within what they consider to be a reasonable timeframe. BUT I’ve opted to stick with my new leaf and do as I need, when I need to – especially as I am working earnestly to balance all that comes with finishing graduate school. *Note to all: We are ALL busy juggling multiple things so your level of busyness is not an excuse to dismiss the commitments others have as well*

So thank you to all my flaky friends 🙂 – I’ve learned a lot from you. You’ve taught me that changing my mind, disconnecting from my phone, and engaging with the social world when desired is an act of radical self-care. Thank you!

Seasons Change

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seasons-change

This week I welcomed fall with open arms! After an adventurous, active, and somewhat rejuvenating summer, the end of one calendar season and beginning of the next seemed to bring with it much chaos and shifting in all areas of my life. New arrivals, deaths, sickness, and a whole host of other events happening in my family, friendship circle, and across the globe escorted summer to a frenzied end. And all the same, the new season brings with it opportunities to embrace change, new beginnings, and reasons to celebrate. While I don’t long in any way for a replay of the not so pleasant happenings of the last three months, I am reminded that there were many reasons to smile AND of the beauty in recreating. So here I am here and here we are just a week away from October. Ongoing dissertation stuff, a long awaited weekend retreat, a professional development conference and presentation, in addition to a wonderful group of students who I get to share space with twice a week all linger just around the corner. I’ve been spending more time journaling … a lot more time engaged in leisure reading and quiet time … more nights spent reflecting, reprocessing and rebuilding. I am taking more steps to embrace the new and carefully pack away what is no longer.

Hello Fall! Hello New Beginnings! Hello Opportunity to Recreate, Rediscover, Reinvent, Re-purpose, Renew … Rewrite another chapter of my life’s story. Hello World!

#allsummer16

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All summer 16

This summer has been an incredible one for me! After an intense four years of course work; a year of teaching again; more pounds added on than I care to share; comprehensive exams; getting going with my dissertation; and all sorts of other life events in between, I was exhausted at the start of the summer. However I knew I needed to make some changes for my mental, physical and spiritual health. This post of dedicated to what I did to get my life back this summer ~ enjoy!!!

  1. I started the summer out by changing my eating habits. I knew I needed to get back to meal planning and meal prepping so the start of summer break was a great time to do so. You can read more about my final resolutions here.
  2. I got back to a regular exercise routine. Although I started slow, by the middle of the summer I was working out twice a day two to three times a week. The goal was to retrain my mind and body to crave physical activity and make it my go-to during times of stress versus emotional eating.
  3. I continued my therapy sessions. I have seen a therapist off and on for a number of years now. I believe that therapy is one of the most underutilized resources we have access to. Therapy has done wonders for me during seasons of turmoil, uncertainly of stress, and confusion; this summer was no exception.
  4. I paced myself. I had a long list of things I wanted to do this summer, but I knew I couldn’t do it all! I started small and kept going. Each week I added and adjusted my goals – sometimes I wrote more, sometimes I wrote less; sometimes I exercised more and other times I exercised less. Regardless of where I fell along the spectrum, I kept going.
  5. I made an email adjustment! Up until this summer, I checked email chronically. I receive emails about school, about work, from students, in relation the Board I am president of, and everything in between. Opening my email and seeing 50 emails stresses me out, but I realized that checking email so frequently was also stressing me out so I removed my work email from my phone. Best decision ever!
  6. I learned to tune out. In addition to email, I am usually checking and responding to text messages, looking for updates on social media, and just doing too much. This summer was about me learning to turn my phone OFF, check social media less frequently, and just enjoy some quiet time.
  7. I checked my relationships! Second only to getting my physical, mental, and spiritual health in check was checking my relationships. I realize more and more than I tend to keep in touch with a lot of folks from previous seasons in my life: undergrad, Peace Corps, grad school etc. While some of these relationships have proven to be invaluable, others have continued solely on the strength of memories. This summer – by force – I allowed a few people to become permanent fixtures in my past. Had a series of events never happened, I really don’t think I would have had the courage to separate myself from these people. But thankfully the universe intervened so there you go.
  8. I checked the negativity. Related to #7, I learned that I have to constantly and consciously choose to separate myself from negativity – even from people who I consider to be friends. This summer I chose to honor my peace and take as much space as needed from folks who weren’t doing the same.
  9. I danced!!!!! I love dancing and one of the things I have hated most about my school and work schedules has been not having a lot of time to dance. This summer I took as many dance workshops as I could. I have a FABULOUS time and it felt so good to be doing something else I love doing so much.
  10. While I was checking friendships and checking negativity, I also embraced my friendships that truly are treasures. I spent time with my friends – much needed, long overdue, quality time. I made time for lunches, dinners, and other social outings. It was wonderful to have time to spend time with my friends. It did my soul good.
  11. I learned to honor me. I am who I am. It has taken me a LONG time to accept who I am as I am. I honor that I am a hard worker. I honor that I see MYSELF as my greatest competition. I honor that I don’t give up. I honor the hustle in me. I appreciate how and the extent to which I honor my word. I have learned to not make apologies for any of the aforementioned. This is me and this summer was all about honoring me.
  12. I accepted who I am ~ see # 11 :-).
  13. In relation to numbers 11 & 12, I also spoke up for me! In more than enough instances I could have chosen silence when I felt others had wronged me. But this summer I truly embraced speaking up and advocating for ME!
  14. I made a financial investment in my health. This summer I attended workshops, retreats, seminars, and webinars. I purchased books and whatever else I thought I needed to get my life together. I invested in me.
  15. And finally, I LIVED! School has really taken over my life in more ways than I imagined. Now that my course work is done, I am looking forward to having more time to make my summer practices a regular part of my life. My goal for this summer was to focus on me in such a way that these practices become my new norm. I know it’s a daily choice, but summer allowed me to get a taste of how fulfilling my life can be – even with multiple responsibilities.

My summer ‘16 has been all that I needed and more. Unfortunately it’s over – classes resumed on Thursday and I am back with a new group of eager students <3. Let’s see if I can carry a little bit of my summer along for the ride :-).

It’s My Birthday … and What Happened at the Party!!!

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BIRTHDAY

I met a few friends out this weekend to celebrate my birthday. When I arrived at the venue I noticed that the event was being held in two separate rooms, which I assumed were adjoining. As I walked the corridor following a slew of people, I heard one of the hosts tell a guest in front of me that a particular entrance was only for VIP guests. I kept walking until I approached another open door. Once I walked in, I saw several people dancing, could spot the DJ, and found a place to stand where I could easily move between the dance floor and a resting spot. Once my friends arrived, we began texting back and forth about where to meet. After several failed attempts to locate each other inside the room where I was, I suggested that we meet in the hallway. Once I walked into the hall, I spotted one of my friends coming from a completely different area. I asked her where she was coming from and she asked me the same! Without even taking a look in the room I’d just exited she instructed me to follow her. We walked to a completely different section – near one of the doors I’d passed before – and she opened the door! This room was about 4 times the size of the room I just left with just as many occupants. Oh. My. Gosh. What had I been doing all this time? I danced in the other room and had a good time, but it was no comparison to the room where my friends were! Clearly I was missing out. Here were all my friends in the REAL party room and I was merely experiencing the overflow … at best.

How many times do we do this in life? How many times do we pass a door that is not open to us in the immediate future, only to never return again and see what is on the other side? How often do we settle for overflow or what is good and never made it to the real deal or what is GREAT? This was a lesson for me as I celebrate the blessings of this past year and look forward to another wonderful year of life. In honor of my birthday, I am sharing my affirmations for this year.

  1. I will not be held hostage by myself or anyone else by who I used to be and what I used to do! I reserve the freedom to change gears at any time, acknowledge when my actions don’t match the highest version of myself and change course without any explanations.
  2. I will be selective of who I spend my time with and what I spend my time on, including family, friends and everyone/everything in between.
  3. I will put my health FIRST!
  4. I will live my life as my authentic self ~ no apologies.
  5. I will honor seasons in all things: places, relationships and practices.
  6. I will dance. I will laugh. I will love. I will celebrate. I will teach. I will learn. I will write. I WILL LIVE!
  7. I will practice ongoing acts of kindness and gratitude through service, prayer, giving, meditation and periods of solitude.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME 🙂

Change Is In the Air: Prince, Lemonade and the End of Coursework

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Beyonce and Prince

A lot has happened over the last two weeks. As many across the world mourned Prince, I sat closely watching with awe at how many lives he has touched through his art, philanthropy and mentorship. He was such a complex man, a talented musician and a ground-breaker in ways that many never imagined or had the courage to face. Prince redefined manhood and artistry – doing this in such a way that I never even questioned who he was, why he wore eyeliner or heels or even bothered to wonder about his sexuality. He was just Prince – doing his own thing and many of us accepted him as so.

Just a few days after Prince’s death, Beyonce released Lemonade. I didn’t watch the visual album on the night of its release, but didn’t wait too long afterwards to indulge in craze. As a non-Beyhive member :-), I watched simply to see what all the talk was about. I found it hard to pull away from the first viewing and convinced that I’d missed something monumental, I watched Lemonade again on the same night.

There is nothing new that I can add to the seemingly endless praises, critiques, analyses, dissections, accolades, and affirmations. What I will share is that Prince’s death and Beyonce’s release of Lemonade came at a time when I was closing one chapter and opening another. For those of you who have been following me for the last four years during my academic journey, you’ve read about my many revelations and realizations; challenges related to attempts to find balance in my life, practice self-care, excel academically, sort out personal and professional relationships, recreate my voice, honor who I am … it has been a long FOUR years! But on Friday, I celebrated a HUGE milestone. This semester marks the end of my time taking coursework fulltime (four to five classes); it marks the end of evening classes and late night commutes; it marks the end of the academy controlling 70%-80% of my schedule with required courses, homework, and papers. Yes, I still have one more elective and my dissertation but no other semester will ever be like those I have experienced over the last four years.

I am in no way comparing Beyonce to Prince, but what I am doing is gauging the inspiration I gained from both these events. Prince’s legacy lives on in my life as a reminder to JUST BE ME. There are no boxes, no limits, not constraints on who I am and exactly how I perform in my me-ness. Both artists remind me that my platform – writing and teaching – is not for my own success or celebration, but as a gift to the world: to shape, recreate, define, alter, and inform those who I reach.

I approach this summer like many of previous years with grand plans, long reading lists, a quasi-schedule and high hopes of being renewed along the way. But this summer is also a little different. I am starting a 21 day vegan challenge on tomorrow, attending a 10-day silent retreat in July and aggressively attempting to regain control over my physical health. In their very own ways, both Prince and Beyonce gifted me over these last two weeks: they gave me an extra bout of courage to move forward, press on, and be me authentically … without apology. They also reminded me – yet again – that I can’t give or serve without first caring for me. Let’s see what the summer brings … stay tuned ;-).

Post Hawaii Reflection: These Things I Know for Sure

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HawaiiII

It is just shy of a week since I left Hawaii and I am working hard to maintain the same sense of calm, intention and peace that I felt while I was there. As this semester nears this becomes more challenging so I am taking a few moments to share the gentle reminders I received in Hawaii and what I know for sure at the start of a New Year & season.

  1. I am a late comer to Mike Dooley, but am now a fan of his work and the daily #tut emails. I now know that taking a few moments each day to be inspired is invaluable. A simple email, an affirmation, a meditation or a prayer all go a long way in sustaining my sense of purpose.
  1. For the last few days I have been binging on podcasts by Myleik Teele of #Curlbox. I am usually reading, watching or listening to folks much older than me and attempting to apply their wisdom and insight to my current situations. It has been incredibly inspiring to hear someone my exact age talk about success, goal setting, overcoming challenges and continuing to grow. I now know that I need more of this. Thanks Myleik!
  2. Related to numbers two and three, I now know that I have to indulge in finding new sources of inspiration and encouragement on a regular basis, not just during a break or vacation. I now know that three months is too long for me to carve out time to simply be inspired!
  3. I have to exercise! This is a no-brainer to most, but when my schedule gets hectic my exercise regimen is usually the first to go. Like many of you, I feel so much better and less stressed when I am active. I now know (more than ever) that exercise is a necessity not a luxury.
  4. Alongside regular exercise, I now know that there is absolutely no excuse that is ever sufficient enough to justify eating poorly on a continuous basis. I know better – it is time for me to do better … consistently.
  5. After such a hectic semester last fall, I toyed with the idea of not renewing my license for Crazy Sexy Wellness (CSW). I now know that this is absolutely foolish! CSW is not where I thought it would be when I worked with a marketing professional 7 months ago; I haven’t done nearly what I imagined I would considering my schedule last fall, but it is still my venture. Slow and steady is where we are right now and I am okay with that.
  6. I now know more than ever that my life is purposed and intentional in every way and this is how my time must be spent. I now know that it is okay to honor my feelings about my aspirations in life; there is no need to try to fit in – in places I don’t belong. I now know that honoring me is critical for my mental health and well-being.
  7. In the midst of all this “soul searching” I also have some very tangible and relevant deadlines – finishing my dissertation being one of them :-). I’ve read countless articles and even a few books on the necessity of creating a daily writing practice. I now know that this is: 1) much harder than it sounds and 2) necessary for my success. I’ve created my schedule and am on day six of writing (or reading) for a minimum of 15 minutes each day on something related to my dissertation.
  8. While all of this (#’s 1-8) can be a bit much to stomach on a daily basis, I also now know that I have to remain flexible. Goals change, schedules bend and aspirations are re-imagined. I will be working to remind myself of this.
  9. And finally, I now know for sure – without a shadow of a doubt – that there is no one on this Earth like my friends and I am grateful for this! I was in Hawaii vacationing and visiting a very good friend of mine who I met while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. We have grown and experienced so much through the years, but she has remained a constant reminder of the beauty of life, how important our decisions are and that dreams do come true. It was a complete honor to be in Hawaii with her for such an extended time and during a new season in my life. I know for sure that I must honor these friendships … nurture them with care.

Monday is the big day! I am back to both teaching and taking class. While I am a little anxious, this last week of vacation has given me time to resettle, create a semblance of a schedule and realign myself in preparation for the semester. I also downloaded Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes to listen to during the commute. I am excited about this moment, tomorrow, next week, next month, next quarter … this year! This I know for sure.

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